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Government could back down on media rules relaxation

LONDON - The government is set to back down on proposed relaxation of media ownership laws and accept a compromise after peers rejected the changes.

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According to a report in The Guardian, the Department of Culture, Media & Sport is to accept a change proposed by the Labour peer Lord Puttnam, with the threat of rebellion by 50 other Labour members of the House of Lords.

The amendment would make it harder for any existing media companies to take over the fifth terrestrial channel, Five, without submitting to a public interest test, by referring plans to Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading.

Lord Puttnam has expressed his concerns in the past that should BSkyB owner Rupert Murdoch buy Five, he would cross promote it via his newspapers and satellite television network.

He is supported by other high-profile peers including the broadcaster Lord Bragg and Lord Alli, co-creator of 'The Big Breakfast'.

The DCMS is making moves to appease the rebel lords for fear of losing the communications bill. Although Labour only holds a quarter of votes in the House of Lords, Liberal Democrats have also voiced concern over the relaxation of media ownership rules.

A vote on Lord Puttnam's amendment may come as early as next week.

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